14. Two views of “enough”

Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 44, no. 10 (October 2011), p. 28.

The concept of “enough” may be the key to world peace.

And that is not cause for optimism.

“Enough” points in two directions. There are those, like most who read this article, who see “enough” as a limitation—we have more than enough; we struggle with cutting back, with making sure we don’t exploit our privilege and use too many of the world’s goods.

Then, there are those who see “enough” as an aspiration—they don’t have enough; they struggle with finding ways to get by, finding enough to eat, finding ways simply to secure a place to live.

The farther away from each other these two groups are from each other, the more difficult peace becomes.

James Gilligan, in his classic book, Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, argues, in fact, that the greatest cause of violence in our world is a wide disparity between haves and have nots.

For those of us who struggle with knowing how to negotiate having more than enough, certainly we benefit spiritually from finding ways to simplify. We may assuage our consciences should we find ways to shrink our ecological footprint.

However, more urgently we need to struggle with the structural dynamics in our world that create such a divide between these two approaches to “enough.”

Possibilities for world peace require, as a simple fact (in my opinion!), that somehow the gap between the wealthy and the poor be profoundly reduced. This won’t happen simply by a simply living movement among the wealthy. The deepest dynamics of our economic systems need to change.

But how?

Much greater minds than mine have not been able to answer this. I am struck with one small contribution followers of Jesus might make, though.

We can disbelieve. So much of the world system depends on deception, on “religious” beliefs that defy reality—at least reality as defined by the gospel. We are deceived to believe that economic growth is without question good, that human beings are by nature selfish, that private property is sacred, and that in such a world as ours with scarce resources some inevitably win while others inevitably lose.

Simply to disbelieve in such assumptions might open us to new possibilities, to ways we might act to shrink the difference between the two approaches to “enough.” If we desire peace, we have no choice but to try.

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